PPA chief disputes claims of new order’s critics as Customs brokers join fray

Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago
Philippine Ports Authority General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago

THE ports chief is befuddled why some sectors and groups want to halt digitalization efforts in the shipping industry, accusing them of spreading false information to discredit the program.

Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago said those that oppose the Trusted Operator Program–Container Registry and Monitoring System (TOP-CRMS) “want the status quo” in the industry that, he said, is detrimental to the “ordinary Filipino.”

“We believe some sectors opposed to the program are the ones deliberately spreading false information regarding the program. We don’t understand how P980 pesos in replacement of the P30,000 container deposit will result in a 50-percent increase in the cost of goods. Or that the additional annual import cost will be P35 billion. That’s just unbelievable,” Santiago said.

Julita Q. Lopez, President of Customs Brokers Federation of the Philippines (CBFP), last week said direct financial cost of the new system will result in “almost 50-percent increase in the cost of importing goods,” which, in real terms, she said, is an annual cost of P35 billion.

The opposition to the new system gained momentum recently when 17 industry groups, backed by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), among others, wrote President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to ask him to intervene.

In an “urgent open letter” sent to the President seeking the immediate revocation of the PPA order, the 17 business groups said, “The PPA fails to consider that the ultimate victim of these additional costs is the ordinary Filipino consumer, who is already bleeding from an inflation rate of 8.1 percent.”

“It is unclear if the PPA has even considered reaching out to the National Economic and Development Authority [NEDA] to fully understand the impact of PPA AO-04-2021 and TOP-CRMS/ECSSSF, especially at a time when the country is reeling from the effects of the pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, fuel price volatility, and global supply chain disruptions,” the stakeholders’ letter read.

Santiago said, however, “Obviously, numbers are being bloated to scare the people and to discredit the program. Anybody who knows basic mathematics would conclude that P980 is smaller than P30,000 under any circumstance. We are curious where they are getting their numbers because ours is based on actual statistics and documentation.”

Under TOP-CRMS, only container deposit insurance and monitoring fee worth P980 and P3,408 empty container handling service fee must be paid by importers compared to almost P30,000 container deposit in the current existing system, he noted.

Santiago also disputed Lopez’s statement on the refund for returned containers.

“A lot of complaints from customs brokers and importers relate to the extreme delay of return of these container deposits ranging from 6 months to more than a year before anything is returned but with deductions and, a lot of times, not at all,” he said.

Santiago added that based on reports and statistics, less than 10 percent of containers incur any material damage in the hands of importers before they are returned to the shipping lines.

“So the question is, how come the general sentiment of stakeholders is that it takes so long to give these deposits back, if at all?” he asked.

He clarified that the P980 fee already includes the P250 container deposit insurance, of which the provider may be chosen freely by the importer or broker from a list of accredited insurance companies.

The TOP-CRMS will be pilot tested at the international ports in the Port of Manila, namely, South Harbor and Manila International Container Terminal and only for foreign inbound containers, the PPA has said,.

“It will not be immediately implemented in all ports in the country and if ever, will only be implemented in PPA ports as part of its mandate to ensure efficient terminal management,” Santiago noted.

Shiptek Solutions won the contract to implement the P980-million TOP-CRMS.

The program is expected to generate as much as 84 percent savings for importers, shippers, truckers, and customs brokers, Santiago said, noting that if the system was implemented in 2022, they could have only paid P1 billion for 1.1 million inbound containers, instead of P23 billion.

“Bottom line is these people want the status quo. But it is indisputable that the status quo is problematic for us Filipinos. Look at the current costs of logistics in our country. It is paralyzing. It is easily determinable where the bulk of these costs can be found. The status quo benefits those opposing the program to the detriment of the ordinary Filipino,” Santiago added.

He emphasized: “They don’t want this to succeed because it will disrupt the status quo from which they have benefited from for decades, and yet look at where we are.”


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